1 (440) 442-6677


Get Legal Help

Did Your Newborn Suffer Cerebral
Palsy or Another Brain Injury Before
or During Labor and Delivery?

Learn More

Our Birth Brain Injury Resource Guide

the guide

Get a FREE guide of resources available throughout Ohio to children and families of children who were born with brain injuries.

Our guide can help you build a foundation of knowledge and tools that will help you help your child
now and in the future.

Get Your Free Guide Now
Get a Free Case Evaluation

Brachial Plexus Palsy - Incidence

Brachial plexus palsy typically develops in infants that experience too much pressure placed on the arms, elbows, and shoulders.

Get A 100% Free CASE Evaluation     

Although health care professionals diagnose different types of the debilitating medical condition, the common characteristic is damage to the nerves caused by undue pressure. As one of the common causes of a brachial plexus injury, shoulder dystocia represents a birth defect that forces an infant to lodge at the mother’s pelvic area. The longer the infant remains stuck, the better chance of the infant incurring damaged limb nerves that can lead to some type of palsy.

Overview of the Birth Defect

Many instances of brachial plexus palsy (BPP) end with the infant regaining full use of his or her hands, elbows, and shoulders. The nerves regenerate over a period determined by the severity of the damage. A small minority of BPP cases involve continued muscle weakness caused by deep nerve damage. The result is a long term disability that ranges from poorly functioning limbs to permanent paralysis. Health care professionals implement a number of physical therapy exercises to encourage stimulation of damaged muscle nerves. The physical therapy sessions can take place at a medical center under the guidance of a therapist or at home performed with the help of a parent.

Some BPP patients benefit from invasive surgery techniques, such as tendon transfers, to bolster muscle strength in the arms, elbows, and shoulders. Several sessions of electrical stimulations or the injection of botulinum toxins might also offer an effective remedy for regenerating nerves and hence, increasing limb muscle strength. In general, health care professionals prefer to implement a wide variety of approaches for treating palsy of the brachial plexus.

Elk & Elk

How Often Does It Happen?

The National Institutes of Health released a comprehensive study in 2008 that covered three years of BPP reported cases. Within the database, the NIH studied more than 11 million births nationwide. The study concluded incidence in the United States was at least 1.51 cases for every 1,000 successful births, with a standard error factored in of .02 cases. However, the prevailing consensus among experts in the United States is that the incidence of BPP remains unknown.

Why the Uncertainty?

There are several reasons why the incidence of the birth defect remains uncertain. First, many obstetricians fail to report the birth defect because of the potential for legal ramifications. The legal price to pay derives from liability or medical liability lawsuits. Second, the diagnosis of the limb palsy requires doctors to identify birth issues such as shoulder dystocia. Moreover, doctors must be willing to report cases of shoulder dystocia, which also can put them on the legal hook. Finally, mild cases of BPP quickly end for infants that experience rapid nerve regeneration. Thus, health care professionals never report the milder cases.

Brachial plexus palsy is a serious birth delivery defect that can last a lifetime. The key for health care professionals involves quickly diagnosing the ailment, as well as implementing immediate measures to treat BPP.